Solar Panel Cost
The cost of solar panels has declined dramatically over the last several decades and, with a sharp rise in utility electricity rates in 2022, home solar now offers more cost savings potential than ever before.
In fact, the 2023 Heatmap Climate Poll found that 46% of US adults want to power their homes with solar panels in the future while 13% already do.
So, what’s standing in the way of American homeowners and solar panels? The biggest hurdle is often the cost of solar panels. And like a monster in a horror movie, the cost of solar panels is far less intimidating once you shine some light on it and understand how it works.
In this article, we’ll explore:
As always, our goal is to give you the resources and knowledge to make educated decisions during the solar process.
Is the price of solar panels falling?
The price of solar panels has declined substantially over the last decade as the industry has matured and reached production at the largest global scale.
Since 2010, solar panel have fallen by roughly 90% while global solar deployment has grown by over 400%, and this incredible growth rate along the entire global solar supply chain has dramatically reduced prices.
Just like computers, big-screen TVs, and cell phones, the economies of scale that solar panels now enjoy have produced a dramatic cost curve that has fundamentally changed the energy industry.
Utility-scale solar installations are now cheaper than all other forms of power generation in many parts of the world and will continue to replace older, dirtier power plants run on coal and natural gas.
Additionally, homeowners are now able to own their power production more cost-effectively than ever before.
Price per Watt vs cost per kWh
There are two main ways to calculate the cost of a solar system:
- Price per watt (/W) is useful for comparing multiple solar offers
- Cost per kilowatt-hour (cents/kWh) is useful for comparing the cost of solar versus grid energy
Let’s dive a little further into each measurement.
What is solar price per watt?
A fully installed solar system typically costs 3 to 5 per watt before incentives like the 30% tax credit are applied. Using this measurement, 5,000 Watt solar system (5 kW) would have a gross cost between 15,00 and 25,000.
Price per watt for larger and relatively straightforward projects are often within the 3-4 range. Claiming incentives like tax credits and rebates can bring the PPW even lower.
However, the following factors may push your solar price per watt into the 4 to 5 range.
- Smaller system size
- Unusual roof material or layout
- Premium panel and inverter models
- Multiple arrays versus a single array
- Additonal work like panel box upgrades, trenching, or roof repair
How to calculate solar price per watt
Calculating the price per watt for a solar system is very straightforward — it’s simply the system cost divided by the number of watts in the system.
Price per watt (/W) allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of different solar quotes that may vary in total wattage, solar panel brands, etc.
Pro tip: It can helpful to know your solar price per watt before and after claiming the 30% tax credit.
Ultimately there are many factors that figure into the price per watt of a solar system, but the average cost is typically as low as 2.75 per watt. This price will vary if a project requires special adders like ground-mounting, a main panel upgrade, EV charger, etc.
|Solar Price Per Watt||Solar Price Per Kilowatt-Hour|
|GROSS system cost / Total system wattage||NET system cost / Total lifetime system production|
|Useful for comparing solar quotes against one another||Useful for comparing solar versus utility bill|
|Pertains to the POWER of a system||Pertains to the PRODUCTION of a system|
|Typically 3.00-4.00/watt||Typically 0.06-0.08/kWh|
Cost Per Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)
Another measure of the relative cost of solar energy is its price per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Whereas the price per watt considers the solar system’s size, the price per kWh shows the price of the solar system per unit of energy it produces over a given period of time.
Net cost of the system / lifetime output = cost per kilowatt hour
You may also see this referred to as levelized cost of energy (LCOE).
What is a kWh?
A kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy and is equivalent to consuming 1,000 watts – or 1 kilowatt – of power over one hour. For reference, an energy efficient clothes dryer uses around 2 kWh of electricity per load, while central air conditioning uses around 3 kWh per hour.
While price per watt is most helpful comparing the relative costs of solar bids, solar energy cost per kWh is best used to illustrate the value of solar relative compared to buying your power from the electric utility.
For example, the average cost of a solar system purchased through solar.com is 6-8 cents per kWh, depending on the size of the system, type of equipment and local incentives.
Let’s compare that to grid electricity in major metro areas for April 2023 to the average cost per kWh of home solar energy:
|Grid electricity (cents/kWh)||Solar.com electricity (cents/kWh)|
|New York City||21.6||6-8|
Based on this prices, it costs around 43 cents to dry a load of laundry using grid electricity in New York and only 14 cents to dry a load using solar power.
How do I calculate the cost of solar panels?
There are a few ways to get a rough estimate for how much solar panels will cost without sitting through a sales pitch. These include:
- Online calculators
- Hand calculations based on your electricity usage
- The average cost of solar panels for comparable homes
Let’s start with the quickest method: online calculators.
Using a solar panel cost calculator
First, you can use an online solar cost calculator, like this one powered by solar.com. Simply punch in your address and your average monthly electricity bill, and the calculator will give you a side-by-side comparison of the cost of solar versus paying for utility electricity.
But before you use any solar panel cost calculator, it’s important to understand that there are dozens of variables that affect the cost of solar panels, and solar calculators work by making assumptions about those variables.
For example, your solar savings depends largely on how much utility rates increase over 25 years. Most calculators assume 3-5% annual inflation based on historical averages – but nobody can know for sure where will go over the next 25 years.
Solar savings is also geographically sensitive, since every state has different incentives, electricity rates, sun exposure, and net metering policies.
For example, a solar panel cost calculator for California would have drastically different assumptions than a cost calculator for New York.
How to calculate the cost of solar panels by hand
If you’d rather make your calculations offline, there are a few simple steps to estimate the cost of your solar system based on your electricity usage.
- Dig up some recent electricity bills (the more the better!)
- Average them together to get a baseline for your monthly electricity consumption
- Divide your monthly consumption by 30 to get your daily electricity consumption.
Once you have your average daily electricity use, follow the steps in the graphic below. Here are a few tips:
- You’ll have to assume the price per Watt (PPW) you can get from a local solar installer. This typically ranges between 3.50 and 5 before incentives
- Pro tip: Run the high and low PPW scenarios to get a range of solar costs
If hand calculations aren’t your thing, you can get a quick-and-dirty estimate based on the cost of solar for comparable homes.
How much do solar panels cost per square foot?
The third – and least accurate – way to get an idea of how much solar panels will cost for your home is to see how much solar panels cost for homes similar to yours.
Now, we absolutely encourage you to talk to friends, family, and neighbors that have installed solar systems to get a sense of the pros, cons, and cost. However, we’ve done a lot of that legwork for you.
We analyzed thousands of systems sold on solar.com in 2022 to find the average cost of solar panels for homes based on their square footage of living space and number of bedrooms.
On average, solar panels cost 8.77 per square foot of living space, after factoring in the 30% tax credit. However, the cost per square foot varies based on the size of the home.
For example, the post-tax credit cost of solar panels for a 2,500 square foot home is around 20,000 for a rate of 7.96 per square foot.
But how much do solar panels cost for a 1,500 square foot home? The average system cost only drops by 1,000 and the cost per square foot increases to 12.83.
|Square footage of living space||Solar cost per square foot (after tax credit)|
Based on systems purchased on solar.com in 2022. Square footage per Zillow.
If you don’t know your home’s square footage, you can either look it up on Zillow or get a rough estimate using the number of bedrooms.
What’s the cost of solar panels for a 3-bedroom house?
The average pre-incentive cost of home solar is 29,161 for a three-bedroom house, or 20,412 after applying the 30% tax credit.
However, as shown in the chart below, the number of bedrooms isn’t a great indicator of the size and cost of a solar system – and neither is living space, for that matter.
Solar systems are typically sized based on electricity consumption – not square footage or number of bedrooms. That’s because a two-bedroom house with two EVs and an electric heat pump would likely use more electricity than a four-bedroom house with no EVs and gas heating.
So, you can use this method to get in the right ballpark, but keep in mind that the previous two methods are more accurate.
Once you have a rough cost estimate for your solar system, it’s time to compare it to the cost of buying electricity from a utility provider to get a sense of how much you can save by going solar.
Do you really save money with solar panels?
Yes, homeowners across the US can save money on energy costs by powering their home with solar panels instead of purchasing electricity from a utility. This is especially true following the Rapid rise in grid electricity rates in 2022.
Home solar is essentially a way to buy electricity in bulk – similar to buying a giant can of coffee grounds from Costco instead of 50 individual cups at Starbucks. The 25 can of grounds costs more upfront but pays for itself after just 9 Grande Lattes at 3 each and nets 125 in savings over its lifespan.
It’s the same concept with home solar, just on a much larger scale.
How much money do you save a month with solar panels?
Exactly how much money you save a month with solar panels depends on a few main ingredients:
- Utility electricity rates
- Electricity consumption
- How you finance your system
- Your energy goals
These factors vary from household to household, so let’s take a look at the average monthly electric bill with solar panels and without solar panels.
- By paying cash for a solar system, you can enjoy maximum lifetime savings – often north of 50,000 – but it can take several years to reach a payback period
- By taking out a solar loan, you can front-load your cost savings by making solar loan payments that are less than your average electricity bill, but interest payments eat into your lifetime savings
Adjusting the size of your solar system and how you finance it gives you control over your essential electricity costs – something you’ll never have by purchasing electricity solely through a utility company.
How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?
The payback period for solar panels is typically 6-11 years, depending on factors like your utility rate, electricity consumption, and how you financed the system.
With a solar loan, many homeowners are able to achieve “Day 1” savings by having a loan payment that’s lower than their average electricity bill. However, interest payments on the loan eat into the long-term energy cost savings.
By paying cash for solar, homeowners maximize their lifetime savings potential, but typically need to wait 6-11 years to recoup the upfront investment.
Is solar worth it financially?
As a hedge against energy inflation, home solar is considered a safe and steady investment with a rate of return similar to real estate and 401k. Remember, home solar allows you to replace your electricity costs with lower, more predictable monthly payments on your solar system.
Why is it financially beneficial to pay for solar rather than utility electricity?
The chart below shows the steady rise of utility electricity from 5 cents per kWh to 16.5 cents per kWh over the last 44 years.
For non-solar owners, this trend is a nightmare because it shows that utility rate hikes are about as certain as death and taxes. But if you have a home solar system, utility rate hikes are the fuel for your energy costs savings over the 25-year warrantied life of your solar system.
Home solar also acts as a time machine, of sorts. Instead of paying the current utility rate for electricity, the cost per kilowatt-hour of home solar is typically around 6-8 cents – roughly what utilities were charging 40 years ago.
So, are solar panels worth your money?
Solar panels are worth your money if you want to want to:
- Take control over your essential electricity costs
- Hedge against energy inflation
- Reduce your carbon emissions
- Increase your home value
- Provide backup power for grid outages (when paired with battery)
However, if you have a hunch that grid electricity are suddenly going to plummet below 8 cents per kWh and stay there for 25 years, then don’t buy solar panels.
How much does solar panel installation cost?
Installation labor accounts for around 5.5% of the total cost of a residential solar project, according to a 2022 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
That amounts to 1,375 for a 25,000 solar project.
This figure often seems surprisingly low to homeowners that are used to labor being a bigger chunk of the cost for car repairs, landscaping work, and other home upgrades.
It’s worth noting that installation costs vary from project to project based on the local minimum wage and scope of the project. For example, labor for specialized electrical work typically costs more than general labor for panel installation. This variability is why it’s tough to find a solar installation cost estimator online.
Overall, labor costs have fallen in the last decade as technology has improved and the labor force has matured. The chart below shows the solar panel installation cost breakdown since 2010.
- The overall cost of residential solar fell by 64% in the 2010’s
- Solar module, inverter, and labor costs have come down substantially in the last decade
- Non-labor soft costs and electrical hardware have been more stubborn
At the end of the day, the installation labor makes up a very small chunk of the total cost of a solar system – and it’s well worth having professionals install a system that you want to last for 25 years or more.
Can I install solar panels myself?
Some homeowners with advanced knowledge and experience in construction, circuitry, and local permitting guidelines (not to mention a good amount of time on their hands) are able to successful install solar panels up to inspection and interconnection standards.
However, it’s important to consider that DIY solar installation may void the manufacturer warranties on the equipment and does come with workmanship warranties.
So, if there are problems with the equipment or the installation, like a panel broken during installation or a leaky hole in the roof, you are on your own to solve and pay for them.
It’s also worth noting that full-service installers typically handle permitting, interconnection, and applying for incentives — which can be complicated and time consuming.
How much does one solar panel cost?
The average cost for one 400W solar panel is between 250 and 360 when it’s installed as part of a rooftop solar array. This boils down to 0.625 to 0.72 per Watt for panels purchased through a full-service solar company.
At a retail vendor, such as Home Depot, you can buy a single 100W solar panel for 100 or a pack of 10 320W solar panels for 2,659, which boils down to 0.83 to 1 per Watt.
Given the relationships with panel manufacturers, full-service solar companies are able to offer a much lower cost per solar panel than retail establishments.
How long do solar panels last?
Today’s solar panels typically have 25-30 year performance warranties that guarantee a certain level of production (usually 85-92% of its Day 1 capacity) during that time. However, the panels themselves can last and generate a meaningful amount of electricity for much longer.
For example, the first modern solar cells were created in 1954 and are still producing power from their display case in a museum. Similarly, a solar panel installed in 1980 on a rooftop in Vermont is still producing at 92% of its original capacity.
Based on manufacturer warranties, it’s safe to assume today’s solar panels will produce at a high level for at least 25-30 years. The real question is how far will they overshoot that warrantied lifespan.
How can I lower the cost of solar panels?
Although home solar is already more affordable than paying for utility electricity, there are a few ways to reduce the cost of your system and maximize your energy cost savings.
First, there are solar incentives offered by federal, state, and local governments, in addition to utility providers.
The most notable is the federal solar tax credit worth 30% of what you pay for solar panels. So, if your all-in cost is 25,000, you can claim a tax credit worth 7,500 on your federal income tax return for the year your system was deemed operational.
Next, many states have additional incentives like tax credits, tax exemptions, and rebates for residential solar systems. For example, New York has all three with its NYSERDA rebate, 25% state tax credit, and sales and property tax exemptions for solar installations.
At the local level, many city governments, municipal utilities, and investor-owned utilities have incentives for solar panels, battery storage, and other energy efficiency home upgrades.
- The Austin Energy solar rebate worth 2,500
- California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program with battery rebates up to 1,000 per kWh of capacity
- Massachusetts’ handful of municipal utility rebates
It’s well worth spending 5-10 minutes searching for solar incentives through your state, county, city, and utility provider.
Compare multiple quotes
The next way to reduce the cost of solar panels is to shop for the lowest price like you would for cars or a new pair of hiking boots.
In most areas of the US, there are at least a handful of solar installers willing to compete for your business. Getting quotes from at least three reputable installers gives you a sense of a fair price, weeds out scammers, and gives you leverage to negotiate for a lower price.
Admittedly, it takes time and effort to research installers, set appointments, and sit through sales pitches in order to gather quotes. Solar.com simplifies this process by instantly generating dozens of quotes from our network of trusted installers so you can easily compare quotes in a pressure-free environment.
However you choose to do it, comparing multiple quotes is crucial to lowering your solar cost and setting yourself up for a long-lasting and productive solar installation.
Can I get free solar panels?
Despite what the ads on and YouTube say, it is not possible to get free solar panels from Tesla, Home Depot, or the US government. This is a common scam used to gather personal data and/or trick people into signing long-term solar lease agreements that are far less favorable than owning solar panels.
For example, in February 2023, a page called “Solar Panel Rate” ran multiple ads claiming Elon Musk was paying homeowners 2,500 to test out new solar technology. Further inspection revealed that the account was run by three individuals in Indonesia and the ads were designed to collect personal information.
There are also dozens of YouTube ads claiming that the “US government is giving away free solar panels.” While it’s true that the federal government strengthened the solar tax credit and created new home electrification incentives by passing the Inflation Reduction Act, it is not “giving away” solar panels.
The falling cost of solar panels coupled with the recent spike in grid electricity have made home solar a reliable means of reducing your essential energy costs.
While the five-figure price tag for home solar often gives people sticker shock, it’s important to remember that going solar is like buying 25-years worth of electricity in bulk. It may cost more upfront, but it is much more affordable than buying electricity at the retail rate from a utility.
Plus, there are zero-down solar loans that can spread out the cost of solar panels and, in many cases, provide instant energy cost savings.
Installation accounts for roughly 5.5% of the total cost of solar projects. However, non-labor soft costs like permitting, inspection, interconnection, and general overhead makeup around half of the cost of home solar.
There are a few ways to reduce the cost of going solar. First, research federal, state, and local solar incentives to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. Second, shop around for the best price by getting multiple quotes from vetted local installers. (Solar.com makes this quick, easy, and pressure-free).
Finally, neither Elon Musk nor the US government are giving away free solar panels. And if they were, they wouldn’t be advertising it on and YouTube.
Steer clear of free solar ads to avoid giving away personal information or ending up in a long-term solar lease.
Frequently asked questions
Is one solar panel enough to power a house?
One solar panel is not enough to power a house. Home solar systems typically feature 10-20 panels in order to produce enough power to offset 100% of the average household electricity consumption.
It’s also worth mentioning that installing one solar panel at a time isn’t very efficient, as there are soft costs associated with designing, permitting, inspecting, and interconnecting solar systems. Homeowners typically get the most bang-for-their-buck by installing at once as many solar panels as they’ll need to offset current and near-future electricity needs.
How long can a house run on solar power alone?
According to the NREL, a small solar system with 10 kWh of battery storage can power the essential electrical systems of a home for three days in parts of the US and in most months of the year.
Essential electrical systems do not include electric heating or air conditioning, which require massive amounts of electricity.
However, it’s worth noting that solar systems need to be paired with battery storage in order to provide backup power during outages. Solar-only systems are automatically shut off during outages as a safety precaution to protect the technicians repairing the grid.
What is the main downside of solar energy?
The main downside of solar energy is that it’s intermittent. In other words, solar panels need sunlight to produce electricity, and when the sun goes down production stops.
This intermittence poses challenges to grid operators because it creates an influx of energy during the middle of the day, when consumption is down, and a lack of energy in the evening, when consumption is peaking.
The most obvious solution to this challenge is various forms of energy storage including batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, and thermal technologies.
In fact, residential solar and battery systems in California provided around 340 MW of power during a heatwave in September 2022 to help prevent power outages.
Is it worth it to get solar panels in California?
Given its abundant sunshine and high utility electricity rates, California is one of the best states to save money with home solar.
In fact, even after reducing the value of solar exports through NEM 3.0 solar billing, Californian’s can still save more money with solar than homeowners in most other states. Under NEM 3.0, it’s much more beneficial to pair solar systems with battery storage in order to use as much of your own solar production as possible instead of exporting it onto the grid.
Many installers are offering less expensive “arbitrage” battery systems that allow solar owners to store and use their own electricity, but don’t provide backup power during outages (hence the price decrease).
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The conversation can be summed up into two main pain points: “Off-grid is much more expensive than going grid-tied and it is way less convenient to be off-grid than on grid,” says Eric Kilens, Senior Solar Advisor at Granite State Solar. Let’s get into the details on what these downsides really look like.
What Is the Difference Between On-Grid and Off-Grid?
“On-grid means that you have utility lines coming in from the street and tying into your house,” Eric explains. “With a grid-tied solar system, the solar is powering your house in real-time, while also sending excess electricity that the array produces back to the grid, so the customer would be net-metering with the utility.” ( on net metering in a bit.) The main takeaway here is: if your solar doesn’t meet all of your energy needs, the grid is there as your safety net.
“With an off-grid system, there are no utility lines coming from the street to the house. The house is completely independent from the grid. It is solely relying on getting electricity from the solar panels or from a battery backup system, or a propane generator as a third backup source of power.”
The Cost of Off-Grid Systems
The cost of solar is highly variable depending on the individual’s needs, but one thing’s for sure: an off-grid system is significantly more expensive than a grid-tied one. The reason: You’re essentially building your own mini-grid. That’s a lot of infrastructure that you’re looking to recreate with several factors to consider.
First, there’s the question of how to size an off-grid solar system? “You have to size that system for the worst-case scenario day,” says Eric. “That would be the winter solstice, the shortest amount of sunlight those panels are going to see throughout a day and having it be a cloudy day. And then sizing your battery system so that it can support the lack-of solar power that you’ll be getting.”
And even that might not be enough. “People who have gone off-grid tell me that in the winter, sometimes there isn’t enough solar and there isn’t enough in their batteries to provide them with enough power, so they have a 1,000-gallon propane tank buried in the ground and they have to use their generators.”
Eric says that many people who are interested in off-grid are exploring it as an alternative to running utility lines to a newly built home in a rural location. Sticker-shock is common when they learn how much it costs to run utility lines (think 15,000-plus). “People are trying to find ways to save money up-front by going off-grid when in reality, they’re not going to achieve that,” he says. Most of the time, off-grid solar is still going to cost more than running utility lines to your house.
Eric mentions another off-grid cost to consider: the off-grid solar system battery life. “Your batteries are going to have to be replaced at some point but bringing utility lines to your house is a permanent solution.”
Cost of On-Grid Solar
Regular, grid-tied solar is a lot less expensive than off-grid for a few reasons. For starters, you simply need less. If your system falls shy of meeting your energy demands for a given day, the grid will supply your power. You don’t need to over-size your system to account for below-average production days.
And that’s just on under-production days. Grid-tied solar also has the advantage when it comes to high-production days, too, thanks to net metering. When your solar is producing more electricity than your home needs, that energy gets sent to the grid. Your utility pays you for it as a credit on your electric bill. This off-sets the cost of any power you pull from the grid during times of lower production (like night or bad-weather days), so, over the course of the year, your bill is covered.
“If you’re purely off-grid, and it’s super sunny, your solar system is probably putting out more power than what your battery needs and what your house needs, so you’re generating excess electricity that you’ll never see a benefit from,” says Eric.
What Does Living Off-Grid Mean?
Short answer: It really means a whole new relationship with how you use all the electronics in your life. It’s a lifestyle.
“People want to live off-grid without changing their lifestyles—meaning they’ll run their driers and have central air conditioning,” says Eric. “That’s a big misconception. The battery technology is not there right now to accomplish being off-grid and having a normal, on-grid lifestyle.”
What does the off-grid lifestyle look like? It means using a lot less and closely monitoring what you do use.
“When you talk to people who are off-grid, they understand that their lifestyle has to be different from everyone else’s to be off-grid,” says Eric. “You have to be frugal.” He gives taking a 15-minute hot shower as an example. “It’s not an infinite supply of hot water. You have to really think of reducing your consumption.”
Boosting Your Energy Independence with Solar and a Battery
Many of our customers explore off-grid to be independent from the utility. Granted, nothing is truly as independent as 100% off-grid, but you can still achieve 80 to 90% grid independence with a simple solar and battery combo—without breaking the bank.
A grid-tied battery still lets you use more of your home-grown solar on-site, but you don’t have to account for the total worst-case scenario. (Meaning you don’t have to stress over snow on your solar panels.) You’ll have the grid as a safety net on when your solar can’t produce or you don’t have enough energy banked in your battery to meet your needs.
Batteries and Avoiding Power Outages
“If people want to be off-grid because they’re worried about brownouts and blackouts, we have a solution for that: it’s having a battery with your solar system,” says Eric.
Eric says grid-tied solar with a battery is almost like having two batteries working together. First, there’s the actual battery. If the grid ever goes down, you know that you can still have electricity through your battery system. Total peace of mind. (Keep in mind that solar does not work during a power outage unless you have backup battery storage.)
“Then, think of the utility company as your second ‘battery,’” says Eric. “They buy your excess power from you, they hold that excess power on your electric bill as a credit, and then you take those credits back at night or on cloudy days when your solar is not putting out enough power.”
Bottom Line: For the vast majority of customers, grid-tied solar is much more attainable than going off-grid, and it’s a cost-effective way to boost your energy independence.
Off-Grid Solar Installation in Michigan
Installing an off-grid solar system for your home or business means relying on the sun for almost all of your energy needs. If you’re located in a remote location far away from the nearest power line an off-grid system may be right for you.
The best solar systems for off-grid living include a battery, such as a HomeGrid, to take full advantage of the energy you’re bringing in. Advances in the solar industry have allowed off-grid solar to become more mainstream and it’s now fairly common to see RVs, cabins and even businesses leverage this technology.
Looking to go off-grid?
Peninsula Solar has decades of experience and only uses top-of-the-line equipment that gives you full access to monitor and control the power you use.
Learn how much you can save by installing a new off-grid solar system.
Renewable energy, such as solar, is a cost effective way to power your home, business, cabin or even other dwellings.
An off-grid system can give you power where it’s needed at anytime and anywhere and is perfect for those that want to be self-sufficient or are tired of paying growing utility costs.
Best Uses for Off-Grid Solar
Most customer’s get off-grid solar for two reasons: removing reliance on utility companies and the cost to have a grid-tied line to their home is much higher than solar.
If you live a considerable distance away from the nearest power line or you are not currently tied to the electrical grid, an off-grid solar system might be your best option to save thousands over time.
Peninsula Solar uses state-of-the-art equipment when designing and installing your off-grid system. Having the appropriate equipment, an off-grid system can power your home just as well as any grid-tied solar system with no monthly utility bill.
This biggest reason most install these types of solar systems is due to the astronomical cost of having a new power line installed. There are many factors involved in cost such as distance, installing new poles, vegetation to clear and more.
Depending on all of these factors you could end up paying upwards of 100,000 to cover a distance as little as 1 mile. This fee does not include any additional payments each month you’ll have to make to the power company.
If you are currently connected to the energy grid you may opt for a grid-tied home solar system instead.
The Best Off-Grid Solar Systems of 2023
Check out our picks for the best off-grid solar systems that you can buy today and compare features, pricing and more.
Despite the rise of grid-tied solar systems. off-grid solar panels continue to be in demand. The best off-grid solar systems offer an easy way to power remote cabins, camper vans and nearly everything that lies or ventures outside grid coverage.
We at the Guides Home Team have conducted hours of market research and reviewed dozens of products to create a reliable list of the best off-grid solar systems. We based each pick on our in-depth solar methodology, which focuses on key factors like system components, price and warranties to help you find the best fit for your off-grid solar project.
Offers 7 solar panel brands Partners with Enphase for battery options Helps customers enroll in savings programs
Off-Grid vs. On-Grid Solar Systems
You can utilize solar power through off-grid or grid-tied (or on-grid) systems. Although both systems technically work the same way, the difference lies in whether you connect your panels to the local electricity grid. While off-grid systems still use solar panels to produce energy, they rely on batteries to store excess production rather than sending it back to the grid, as with a conventional (or grid-tied) home solar system. You can use that stored energy to power your devices in remote locations. Grid-tied systems are more common today since the majority of the population lives in the coverage area of an electric grid. However, off-grid solar is often the only option if you plan to power a cabin in the woods, a recreational vehicle (RV) or even boats.
Pros and Cons of Going Off-Grid
- Creates access to usable energy regardless of grid coverage
- Easier to set up than standard solar systems (no permits or regulatory requirements)
- Ready-to-install kits eliminate the need for an electrical contractor (in most cases)
- Portable solar panel options
- Offers flexible applications (can be used on a tiny house, campervan, boat, etc.)
- Smaller in size and cheaper than conventional systems
Cons of Off-Grid Solar
- Solar batteries are almost always necessary
- You cannot benefit from net metering and other financial incentives
- Large systems can be difficult to set up (most DIY kits are small in size)
What To Look For in an Off-Grid Solar System
There are a few factors to consider when shopping for an off-grid power system.
- Your energy needs: Your system needs to generate enough energy to offset your consumption. You can estimate your energy usage by totaling the expected loads of each appliance and electrical device you plan to run, or you can use an online solar calculator.
- Cost and kit: Try to find a balance between the cost of a kit and its features. Look for higher efficiency, Smart features and reasonable pricing.
- Installation: The best kits are simple to install. You can look for kits that are “plug-and-play” by design. Each kit should also come with a detailed solar installation manual.
- Batteries and storage capacity: Look for modern, high-efficiency batteries. preferably lithium batteries. Also, the higher a battery’s storage capacity, the longer you can run your devices and appliances.
- Additional equipment needed: A proper system needs more than just solar panels and batteries. Look for kits that come with all the necessary equipment bundled together, including cables, cable ties, connectors, etc.
- Warranty on the kit: As a general rule, the longer the warranty on any solar product, the better. The industry standard is a 10-year product warranty for panels and a 25-year performance guarantee.
Compare Off-Grid Solar Systems
Top 5 Off-Grid Solar Systems of 2023
Renogy 400 W 12 V Complete Solar Kit
- Our rating: 5 out of 5 stars
- Cost: 1,700
- Power output: 400 W
- Warranty: 5-year material and workmanship warranty and 25-year performance guarantee
Renogy is popular among off-grid enthusiasts for offering solar kits that combine reliability and affordability. The 400 W kit includes everything needed for an off-grid solar array of this size, including four high-efficiency, monocrystalline solar panels and two 100 amp-hour batteries for ample energy storage (you can pick between AGM or lithium-ion batteries).
The kit also includes modern controllers with digital displays, a basic but reliable 1,000 W inverter, and all the necessary cables, fasteners and connectors. Renogy claims this unit can generate up to 2 kilowatt-hours (kWh) each day — sufficient for a small cabin or a camper.
Cons Basic package does not include batteries or an inverter Some online reviews complain about missing kit components and instruction manuals
- 4x 100 W monocrystalline solar panels (compact design)
- 2x 100 amp-hour batteries (AGM or lithium-ion phosphate)
- MPPT charge controller
- Bluetooth modules (for performance monitoring)
- Battery monitor with shunt
- System fuses, branch connectors and cables
- Mounting equipment
Why we picked it: Renogy’s complete off-grid solar kit offers affordable pricing at less than 5 per watt. Plus, it offers some of the best solar panels on the market — with solar cells that can reach up to 22% efficiency. We also like how comprehensive this kit is, with every small component included.
altE Off-Grid 300 W Base Kit
altE’s base kit comes in a handy 300 W size, which includes two monocrystalline solar panels and offers unique customization options. You can choose between an AGM battery or a lithium battery. If you want to install a more permanent system, you can also choose between roof-mounting or pole-mounting racking equipment.
The kit is quite affordable in its basic form, costing just over 1,100. altE also rightly calls it a “cabin kit” since it is a perfect fit for small-sized off-grid cabins.
Pros Customizable options, including the battery bank Offers system mounting racks Affordable pricing
- 2x 150 W monocrystalline solar panels
- PWM charge controller
- Combiner box
- Connector cables, surge protection device, mount breakers and other components
- Optional battery bank (AGM or lithium-ion)
- Optional mounting equipment
Why we picked it: The altE 300 W Base Kit offers essential solar equipment (batteries not included) and mounting options to power your cabin. Its monocrystalline solar panels and AGM and lithium battery add-on options offer modern technology for reasonable pricing. But the best highlight of this kit is its customizability, especially with roof and pole mount racking options.
Goal Zero Yeti 1000X Boulder 200
Goal Zero is considered one of the best portable solar product companies. Its robust, high-quality solar panels and generators have taken the off-grid world by storm. The Yeti 1000X and Boulder 200 briefcase combo offers a rugged, portable off-grid kit for those who need power on all sorts of outdoor adventures.
A foldable, briefcase design makes your solar panels easy to carry and store. And the solar generator comes with an integrated battery, inverter and ready-to-use ports.
- Power station
- 2x 100 W briefcase solar panels
- Solar panel carry case
- 120 W power supply
- Combiner and extension cables
Why we picked it: Goal Zero’s kit offers exceptional simplicity of use along with incredible portability. It eliminates excess connectors, cables and all the effort needed to wire a system. You simply plug the panel cable into the generator, and it charges the battery. Similarly, you can just plug your appliance directly into one of the generator’s ports, like using a wall unit.
WindyNation Complete 100 W
- Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
- Power output: 100 W
- Warranty: 5 years for solar panels, 1 year for all other components and a 25-year performance guarantee
If you don’t need to run a dozen appliances on your solar kit, WindyNation’s 100 W package offers a basic output without breaking the bank. The kit comes with a 100 W monocrystalline solar panel, an AGM battery, a pure sine wave inverter and other miscellaneous components.
The kit has no Smart components or outstanding features, but it manages to compile all the minimum necessities into one affordable package.
- 1x 100 W monocrystalline solar panel
- 1x 100 amp-hour AGM 12 V battery
- Charge controller with an LCD display and user adjustable settings
- Solar and battery cables
- Solar mounting hardware
Why we picked it: Not all buyers are looking for a full-fledged system that can run fridges, TVs and other appliances. The WindyNation 100 W kit can power a few lights and a fan for a small cabin or boat. It is also easy to connect and relatively inexpensive.
Eco-Worthy 4800 W 48 V Kit
Not everyone needs a small off-grid kit —some people may need enough power to sustain a large cabin full of modern appliances. Eco-Worthy’s 4,800 W kit offers plenty of power to keep a modern cabin running continuously. This system is so well-specced that it can provide backup power to run your whole house for a few hours.
While typical grid-tied solar systems with batteries often cost tens of thousands of dollars, this kit bundles everything into one neat package for less than 10,000.
Cons May require some expertise to install May be too large for some off-grid applications (like camping or small cabin use)
- 24x 195 W monocrystalline solar panel
- All-in-one inverter and MPPT solar charge controller
- 4x 50 amp-hour 48 V lithium batteries
- Cables, connectors and other wiring components
- Mounting brackets
Why we picked it: Eco-Worthy’s off-grid home solar kit bridges the gap between smaller kits and full-fledged solar systems without costing a fortune.
Main Components of an Off-Grid System
While specific components will vary by company, most off-grid solar system kits include the following:
- Solar panels:The most important component of an off-grid solar system is the solar panels. Also known as photovoltaic (PV) modules, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which then flows through your system’s wiring and provides power. There are different types of solar panels. including monocrystalline and polycrystalline, for home and off-grid applications.
- Inverter: Most household appliances operate on alternating current (AC), while solar panels generate direct current (DC). An inverter converts the DC power from your panels and battery into AC power, which allows you to use solar energy for your appliances.
- Battery: Batteries store excess energy that your panels generate during the day to supply electricity at night, on cloudy days or during power outages. While all batteries store energy, different types of batteries (such as lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries) are suited for different solar needs.
- Solar charge controller: Power flowing from your solar panels to the battery can fluctuate, reducing your battery’s charging efficiency and even lowering its usable life. A charge controller optimizes the incoming current and voltage, boosting efficiency and safeguarding battery cells. It can also prevent your batteries from overcharging.
- Miscellaneous components: Any solar power system requires several small components to operate correctly, including cables, nuts, bolts, connectors, fuses, etc. These components are sometimes known as the Balance of System (BoS).
The Bottom Line
Off-grid solar systems offer an excellent power source when you don’t have access to the grid, making them popular among campers and people looking to power tiny homes or cabins. They are also a great way to power appliances in an outhouse or food truck, helping to lessen your reliance on a traditional utility company.
There are dozens of off-grid kits available on the market, each offering a different set of component specifications and features. No single kit is the overall best — you will need to consider specific parameters depending on your needs.
For instance, the Goal Zero bundle is a superb option if you plan to connect, disconnect and move your system. Similarly, the Windynation 100 W is perfect for someone looking for a very basic kit costing a few hundred bucks. Alternatively, the Eco-Worthy 4800 W kit is a good choice for larger applications that require maximum power or home battery backup.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to understand your own requirements, then narrow down a few options and choose based on system features, warranties and cost. If you are looking for a more permanent solar option, check out our guide to the top solar companies for residential use.
Frequently Asked Questions About Off-Grid Solar Panel Systems
How big of a solar system do I need for off-grid usage?
A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work with solar power systems. The system size you need will depend on your energy consumption. You can use an online calculator to figure this out or do some basic calculations. Based on your calculation, you can select the appropriate system size and features. Here’s an example of energy calculations:
|TV||120 W||4 hours||480 kWh|
|Laptop||80 W||5 hours||400 kWh|
|Lights||60 W||6 hours||360 kWh|
Based on the above figures, your total energy usage would be around 1.94 kWh, which converts to 129 W. So for this example, the Goal Zero Yeti 1000X Boulder 200 or altE Off-Grid 300 W Base Kit systems would supply enough energy to meet consumption needs.
What is the most efficient off-grid power source?
Energy sources have different efficiencies, ranging from 10% to 90%. Solar power converts light to electricity at an efficiency of around 20%. Since a solar panel’s input (sunlight) is readily available in most places and easy to convert, off-grid solar is better than most other options, like wind energy.
Is an on-grid or off-grid solar system best for powering a home?
On-grid and off-grid systems serve different purposes, so we cannot label one as the best. Off-grid systems are useful in situations that do not require a power grid, such as camping. But since on-grid solar panels connect to the local power grid, they are generally better suited for homeowners looking to lower electricity bills.
Is an off-grid solar kit worth it?
If you are looking to power a camper, cabin or tiny home, an off-grid solar system is worth it unless you have another readily available and cheap source of electricity. Off-grid systems are relatively simple in terms of installation and use, offer a long service life and can help reduce your carbon footprint and lower electricity costs.
Where can I buy an off-grid solar panel kit?
You can purchase an off-grid solar power kit online by visiting the retailer’s website. You can also look on websites like Amazon or other online marketplaces. While most DIY solar kits are ideal for beginners, more advanced systems may require professional installation.
Methodology: Our System for Ranking the Best Off-Grid Solar Systems
Aniket Bhor is a solar engineer who has spent nearly a decade studying and working in the solar power sector in the European, Asian and North American markets. He is a climate enthusiast and avid cyclist, and he also loves to lose himself in books and cooking.
Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.